BNSF resumes taconite trains to US Steel Granite City Works

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A loaded BNSF all-rail train for Granite City, Ill. rolls through Coon Creek Junction in Coon Rapids, Minn.
Steve Glischinski
KEEWATIN, Minn. – BNSF Railway has resumed ore train service this week between US Steel’s Keetac taconite pellet plant in Keewatin, about 65 miles northwest of Duluth, and the company’s Granite City (Ill.) Works. The ore takes a unique all-rail route instead of relying on a Great Lakes boat for part of the journey.

US Steel announced last month it would reopen the Granite City Works blast furnace and steelmaking facilities. The plant had been idled in December 2015 because of what US Steel termed “challenging market conditions.”

The steelmaker began calling back about 500 employees in March with the restart process taking up to four months. US Steel says that the change comes due to anticipated demand for more steel in the U.S. in response to President Donald Trump’s tariff on steel imports.

BNSF put together two 160-car sets to start the service and will eventually have four train sets in rotation for the trains. The first loaded train was symboled UKEEMAD0-01T and loaded at Keetac on April 19. A second train is planned for next week, and then Keetac will go on an already planned maintenance shutdown around April 25 that will last through May 10. BNSF will add in the other two train sets after Keetac comes back on line.

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